Where would we be without teachers?
Stoopid town, that’s where.
But there is no rule that says your teachers must be human, or even alive, and no we aren’t talking vampires. I’ve always struggled to connect with teachers / humans in general (it’s the plight of the awkward person), but looking back, that’s probably why my most influential teachers (in addition to my *middle school math teach) have been books and writing.
Check out the three most important things I’ve learned from my inanimate teachers. Or eat a sandwich. Both tasks are somewhat rewarding.
To gain empathy, read stories. It’s staggering really, all the lives that I’ve led, all the memories in my head that don’t belong to me. And that’s because reading inserts you into someone else’s consciousness. I’ve sailed ships in search of white whales, heard ghost stories at Wuthering Height, and gone on adventures with Huck and Finn. I’ve also managed a Red Lobster, fought bulls, swum in the Amazon (yo, I actually did this though), committed crimes, traveled through time, and hung out in Hooville.
If I had a kid, and had the option to teach them one thing only, it would be empathy, to step outside their own head and try to understand people’s motives and emotions. Books taught me how to do that. The world might be a better place if everyone tried a little empathy…and tenderness…and tacos.
P.S. – I would also teach my kid karate.
I used to fear rejection more than anything (except stink bugs and murder clowns), and I think that’s natural. But if you want to be a writer, get ready to face rejection. I started out with itty bitty butterfly wings, too scared to read out loud, too scared to submit to contests, but now, I’m a goddamned **rhinoceros. Seriously, COME AT ME. And that’s not to say I don’t get discouraged, but I can put that feeling away and bounce the fuck back. Luckily, once you master resilience in one aspect of your life, it becomes easier to apply in others, like beer pong tournaments and gambling.
This is a hard one to explain… Because I read and write, I’ve learned to assign meaning to otherwise random tragedy. It’s a defense mechanism. My brain naturally searches for symmetry and reason. Like, oh, I was trampled by a moose? Maybe I was meant to start a moose abuse support group. A psychiatrist might call me delusional, but lunacy works for me, and if you’ve spent your life with stories reigning king, then you know that conflict occurs to teach you something, lead you somewhere new, and move the story forward.
*In high school, I was the queen of remedial math (my boyfriend just read this over my shoulder and pronouced it “re-middle” math. LOL). I ruled the classroom with a silver scepter of ineptitude. To this day, I’d sooner slide down a banister of razor blades into a pool of vodka martinis than do basic math. It was bad. Yet somehow, my favorite teacher ever was my 6th grade math teacher, Mr. Stanzak.
** I’m actually more of a pangolin than a rhino. Armored, yet adorable.
***Sorry. I’m still sick. I blame that for the total lack of ending…although I’d like to blame Obama. Also, I just sneezed on the pangolin.